Carbon Offsets Are Back!

Plus, the update on superconductors.

by Greenwashed

Carbon Offsets Are Back!


Welcome back to Greenwashed! πŸ‘‹

This week has been a dark reminder of how necessary climate action is, as the citizens of Maui suffer through the deadliest wildfire in U.S. history.

The city of Lahaina (which, by the way, used to be a wetland) has been completely leveled by fire, and the death toll has climbed past 100 people so far--a number that is expected to rise in the following days.

Ash & cul-de-sacs are all that remain of Lahaina, Maui, after a wildfire fueled by one of the rarest storm types in history blazed through the town last week. Patrick Fallon, Getty Images

To help in the short-term, native Hawaiian and national director of the Green New Deal Network Kaniela Ing recommends this fund, which spreads donations across 5 local relief organizations.

Climate change is a long-term problem though, and we need long-term solutions to help prevent future tragedies like the Lahaina fire. A promising one emerged this week that seeks to reinvigorate the carbon offset market. ⬇️

Why Were Offsets Gone? How Are They Back? πŸ€”

On March 18, 1995, NBA star Michael Jordan announced his un-retirement with the greatest press release of all time, containing just two words: "I'm back". Almost 30 years later, the world is experiencing an even more important return of a once-thought-to-be-gone superstar--carbon offsets.

Offsets are one of the key tools to fighting the climate crisis, providing the rare mix of being both scalable and tangible. A few years ago, they were on a rocket-ship to success. In 2020, the voluntary carbon market was worth $500 million. By mid-2021, it had quadrupled to $2 billion, prompting a wave of investment and large growth predictions, such as the IIF predicting a value of $100 billion by 2050. πŸš€

As of late, though, they've fallen off. Concerns (both valid and invalid) about the quality of credits, as well as global business shocks stemming from the Ukraine war and the drying up of cheap capital have derailed the success of the market.

Growth metrics are down substantially, prompting some readjustments of market forecasts. In 2021, McKinsey predicted the 2030 voluntary carbon market would be worth $30 billion "on the low end". Fast-forward to June of this year, and a coalition of major industry players delivered a starkly different prediction: just $5 billion by 2029.

Recently, however, sentiment on carbon markets has flipped.

The big news sparking the shift is the release of the Core Carbon Principles (CCP) by the ICVCM, an independent governance body. The CCP is a set of standards aiming to ensure buyers that the credits they're purchasing are high-quality, similar to the CORSIA scheme for international airlines.

The CCP outlines traits that credits need to have in order to qualify for the CCP label. Aimed at cleaning up the rough edges of the carbon markets, the standards include a variety of requirements, such as robust quantifiability and the exclusion of carbon capture credits from projects that also involve oil recovery.

Essentially, it's just a framework for making sure the offsets actually help the environment, which raises an important question. A bunch of words on paper isn't exactly a nuclear fusion breakthrough. Why exactly is it such a big deal?

The CCP is so promising because it helps fix the issue that buyers care most about: credit quality.

There's lots of evidence backing this claim. To start, offsets that meet the strict CORSIA requirements are the most widely-traded in the entire market, and have been so for years.

Even when just looking at 2023, we're seeing evidence of optimism. Take a look at this fresh sales data of CDR (carbon dioxide removal) credits, which tend to be seen as higher-quality. ⬇️

CDR credit sales via

In what is supposedly a dead market, CDR alone almost 10xed its value in less than a year! It's also not just some niche environmental movement; buyers include major global firms like Microsoft, BCG, Shopify, and JP Morgan.

➑️ That hockey-stick growth suggests that demand for carbon offsets isn't gone, it's simply dormant--waiting for high-quality offsets to come along. The CCP should fill that market need perfectly.

A Michael Jordan comparison may be, admittedly, a bit of a stretch, but there's no doubt that the narrative around carbon offsets has shifted--priming us for a decade of climate action that we desperately need.

Unfortunately, The Superconductor Isn't Real πŸ˜”

Update: Last edition, we covered the insane potential of LK-99, a material that Korean scientists claimed was a room-temperature superconductor.

The applications of such a material would be endless, instantly solving many of the world's toughest problems. There was a lot of controversy surrounding the initial preprint paper, though, and many were skeptical that the findings were accurate.

In this instance, the skeptics were right. It seems much more likely now that LK-99 isn't a superconductor at all, as replication attempts such as this one from a prominent Chinese laboratory began pouring in to underwhelming results. 😬

In fact, LK-99 is likely an anti-superconductor--that is, it conducts at a rate about a billion times worse than standard copper.

In the climate realm, we're used to the pessimists winning. This one particularly stings though--there was an outside chance we were about to live in an entirely new world. For better or worse, we're stuck with the one we're in.

Thanks for reading! If you've been inspired to help out in the fight against the climate crisis, start by offsetting your emissions here or by subscribing below to stay up-to-date on all of the need-to-know climate problems and solutions.